“It’s all to do with interplay, and as a trio we have developed quite a chemistry,” Arild Andersen of the eponymous trio tells Jim Gilchrist
What’s the difference between Friday evening music and Sunday morning music? You’d maybe have to ask your neighbours, but for Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen, the difference is self-evident enough for him to describe Mira, the last album he recorded with his trio with Scots saxophonist Tommy Smith and Italian drummer Paolo Vinaccia, as “a Sunday morning album”.
Scottish audiences, however, will doubtless be treated to jazz of every mood – or for that matter, day of the week – when he brings this superb trio on a short Scottish tour next week.
Andersen cuts a big figure – both physically and figuratively – in European jazz. A hefty, genial man stooped to his double bass, sounding out acoustically in warm, woody tones or deploying a shimmer of looped effects, he is as likely to be found in the white heat of a straight-ahead jazz trio or quartet as in a concert hall leading one of his compositions for large-scale forces. During his long association with ECM, the Munich-based label which has nurtured so many European and US jazz greats, he has played with the likes of Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Towner, George Russell and Chick Corea.
He formed his international trio with Smith and Vinaccia in 2007, having already played some duo gigs with the Scottish saxophonist. Over the intervening near-decade, during which they released two enthusiastically greeted albums on ECM, Live at Belleville and Mira, the trio has really honed its musical interplay, he tells me from his home in Oslo. “It’s all to do with interplay, and as a trio we have developed quite a chemistry. There are no soloists or rhythm section,” he laughs. “We are all soloists or rhythm section, the three of us, simultaneously. I knew when we started the trio that this would be the direction we’d take. Tommy is very good at listening back to the bass and drums when he plays solo, and he leaves spaces for us to come up front again.”
Intercommunication skills were already evident in the trio’s 2008 debut album, Live at Belleville, which earned not only universal acclaim but France’s Grand Prix du Musicien Européen de l’Académie du Jazz. It included Andersen’s majestic Independency suite, and music which ranged from full-throated blowing to eloquent, folk-tinged themes voiced over Andersen’s bowed and looped bass and Vinaccia’s artful percussion work.
The studio-recorded Mira had a more relaxed, if still soulful, vibe. “With Mira I wanted to go into the studio and make a ballad record, a record for Sunday morning, not Friday evening. Live t Belleville has much more energy in it, and we tend to have quite some energy when we play live.”
Scottish audiences will discover that for themselves during the forthcoming tour which, says the bassist, will feature numbers from both albums as well as material they haven’t yet recorded.
At 70, Andersen doesn’t appear to be easing up any. At the time of our interview he was due to join other collaborators, pianist Helge Lien and drummer Gard Nilssen, in a “European Jazz Legends” concert in Gütersloh, Germany. Following next week’s tour, which heads south for gigs including a night at Ronnie Scott’s, joined by Lien, the summer sees them off to Rochester Jazz Festival and other US engagements, while in September he reunites with Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, with whom he made his Celebration album four years ago, to play the music of Charles Mingus.
For the moment, however, he’s looking forward to the UK tour – and especially to being driven: “It would be a disaster for me to drive on the left hand side. Tommy will do the driving – he’s a safe driver. I’ll concentrate on the playing.”
• The Arild Anderson Trio plays the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 12 May; Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline, 13 May; West Kilbride Village Hall, 14 May and Inchyra Arts Club, Glencarse, 15 May, www.arildandersen.com